Foster children crafting items to fill financial void

TARPON SPRINGS - The news that came in last month wasn't good.

It was a letter explaining to Tarpon Springs resident Lori Bailey that the monthly stipend she receives to help care for her four teenage foster children would be reduced, effective July 1.

The $6-per-day, per-child reduction immediately left Bailey fretting about how everyday needs would be met, let alone those of future clothing and school supplies.

Just a day after receiving the letter from Carlton Manor, the St. Petersburg-based organization that works to serve foster and at-risk children in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, helpful hands were busy at work on a creative solution.

"The next morning I got up and my kids had other foster kids at the house and they're all making crafts," said Bailey, who has fostered children for 10 years. "I asked what they were doing and they said they were going to make money for school clothes and supplies and because I need help getting a new car."

With four teenage foster children at the house, the $6-per-child reduction amounts to a hit of more than $700 per month. Payments of $35 per day per child dropped to $29.

But rather than allowing it to get them down, the children went to work making creative assortments of decorative wreaths, scrapbook pages, roses and wrapped "hope boxes" affixed with a poem penned by one of the foster care girls.

"These kids have worked their tail feathers off," Bailey said. "Every day they've just been banging it out."

With plenty of finished products ready for purchase, the children have been focusing additional energy on the sales aspect. Along with going door to door, Ken Vinyard, pastor of Family of Faith Church in Tarpon Springs, has allowed Bailey and the kids to set up a craft fair on the premises each of the past two weekends.

The word "hope" is a recurring theme attached to many of the children's crafts. It's that positive outlook that spurred the effort and is keeping them going as they strive to display their creations to a larger portion of the community.

Outside of the church on Saturday while hoping to attract the attention of passing motorists, Bailey said she and the children's craft-selling endeavor will be seeking additional locations for the colorful wares while continuing to make ends meet.

"I know it's going to be difficult because it's a lot less money for everything now," Bailey said, "but [the kids] are working so hard to help."

Family of Faith Church is at 1730 S. Pinellas Ave., just south of the Tarpon Springs Golf Course. It can be contacted at (727) 204-1881 to inquire about future craft fairs the foster children have planned.
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